The BC Civil Liberties Association, now in its sixth decade, does important and principled work in our province while advocating for individual rights, freedom and law reform. Their good work continues as they arrange trained observers to be on the front lines at Occupy Vancouver beginning this weekend.
However, BCCLA Executive Director David Eby got it wrong when he complained publicly about the Vancouver Police statement:
“For everyone’s safety, the VPD is encouraging participants not to wear masks and discourage anyone around them from doing so.”
Writers, artists, organizers, street demonstrators or social critics in any form degrade messages if delivery is attempted in shadowy anonymity. Imagine Martin Luther King relating his dream with a covered face. If principles are truly meaningful, heroes state them openly, despite expected consequences.
I realize it is a fact that individuals can be victimized for taking public positions offending others — occasionally, blog contributors at risk of retribution need invisibility — but that is unusual. Almost without exception, crowds don’t need identity protection while on Canadian streets. During events in the past two years, masks were more about avoiding criminal prosecution than anything else.
And, that statement applies equally to police. There is no excuse for law enforcement to remove identification and cover their faces merely to avoid being held accountable for assaults, wrongful detentions or other misbehaviour. These things have been done routinely before now.
David Eby would have been better off supporting the VPD statement with an additional declaration that police too should leave their masks at the shop.